I’ve almost died on several occasions, if you read the introduction to this blog I mention some of them. The latest event was earlier this year from a double dose of pneumonia and blood clots in my lungs following back surgery. While the operation alleviated the constant overwhelming pain on the left side of my body, the episode left me unable to walk without a cane; and even then only a little ways. Twelve days in the hospital all total left me weak and atrophied. I was off work almost five months, the longest period since I was sixteen. The doctors did not want me to lift more than ten pounds and I couldn’t even drive or attend a physical rehab program until I was healed to the point of allowing some stress on my spine.
In the middle of this I asked and paid my friends brother to drive me to the store to get roses for my wife on Valentine’s Day. I’d never missed one yet, and this wasn’t going to be the first. My job was kind to me so that was really never an issue, but I did constantly wonder what my future held. I finally went to work on May 1 of this year, and even though I was thrilled to get back to a life of labor, it was a difficult week.
You might be hard pressed to believe this, but I’m grateful for the entire experience, and here’s why.
The beauty in the fabric of my life comes from all those events that have had a pleasant outcome; but the strength of it lies in those circumstances that have challenged me to be a better person. I’m therefore MORE thankful for the pain I’ve moved past than the pleasures I’ve experienced. I do not seek suffering as a means to improve myself, but there’s a wonderful comfort in knowing it’s capable of eventually providing increased gratitude.
I do not measure success by material means; I measure it against my former self to see if I have become a better person; stronger, kinder, more patient, more determined, more enthusiastic, less judgemental, etc. If life is a journey, (one chosen on purpose by myself to be somewhat challenging) then sometimes the road inevitably leads to parts unexpected and unknown. This is consistently rewarding, however I must admit the moment can seem occasionally gloomy. No matter the situation, gratitude is generated in my life by constant forward movement, although all too often progress is made by taking two steps back and then three ahead. If the mountain range I’m currently climbing leaves my spirit beaten and bloody, so be it. The healing process will strengthen me for newer and even more demanding events.
Evidence of this approach to living is apparent in the lives of the poor and oppressed as opposed to those in positions of wealth and power. Gratitude comes easy and with sincerity when those who have so little gain even the most basic of needs and comforts. In my opinion this attitude can be diminished when abundance becomes unlimited, especially if one is born to it. A connection to the needs of others often disappears too, so instead of projecting a nurturing and empathetic attitude, one of judgement comes into play instead. This is not always the case of course. My hat comes off to the select few who can connect to each end of the human spectrum. They are the ones capable of moving the planet to a better place by both the leverage they wield and a pursued connection to those in need. By their actions they can lift, inspire, and give strength those who struggle, while showing others like themselves how to influence and help even more.
For me, as this type of symbiotic relationship is internalized, I find I’m able to manifest personal salvation. The “parts” of me that are overflowing with proficiency are capable of assisting those parts of me that are lacking in proper function. Here is an example of how I do this. My right knee has bothered me recently causing a painful limp and disturbing my sleep. I’m well aware that the body has amazing recuperative powers, so tapping into these forces is a simple matter of asking it to do so. I will literally strike up a silent conversation and say “Hey, brain…… you’ve got a job to do. Work on my knee and fix it.” I did this several times a day and it’s better now. This not the only time I’ve done it and I continue the practice because, quite frankly, it’s never failed me. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, don’t knock it until you try it. When I take what I’m grateful for (my attitude and outlook on life) and focus it on where I need it most it does two things. My life improves and my gratitude increases as a result. It becomes a self feeding, doubly rewarding experience.
The struggles that come my way often become the platform for an even better tomorrow; and I know this even when I’m in the middle of the worst of times. When I wrote this entry- So Close to Giving Up I really was out of my mind with pain, and if you read it you’ll still see this philosophy being embraced and seeded. Honestly, gratitude is the best doctor I know. So far it has healed everything in my life.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood